5 tips for photographers how to nail a family session

Oh boy, how naive I was about my family photography sessions almost 2 years ago! Did someone share these tips (especially number 5!) with me when I started, I could have saved hours of editing to fix the mistakes I made!

1. Don't let the family choose the location

The idea behind letting the family to choose the location was that I wanted my family to feel comfortable by letting them to choose a place they know and they like. It led us very often shooting at playgrounds or crowded parks which are far from ideal locations. The advantage of telling your clients where to shoot instead of letting them to choose:

1/ You will be shooting at a location which fits in your style. I like shooting outdoor, at abandod locations, in long grass and at generally places where my clients have the space to move freely and they are not distracted by other people or anything else. Imagine that my clients see my portfolio, love my work and book me with the valid expectation that I will deliver them a gallery full with images in the same style. But I can't if we go to a playground where the only thing what the kids want to do is to play on a climbing frame. Instead I will meet them at a location where I can take similar photos they saw in my portfolio.

2/ You know the location and you know how to use it in your favour. Don't forget, your clients see the places differently: they might think they have a nice garden they have been working on for months but all you can see is a high brown fence everywhere... Shooting at similar (or even at the same) location gives you confidence and one less thing to worry about in your session.

I love shooting in long grass.

2. Don't let the family choose the time to shoot

Never again. It's not the family's fault that they don't know that shooting in full sun on a sunny day is basically impossible (unless we use a shaded area but then what's the point of a sunny day?). Now I always suggest the early morning hours or the late afternoon/early evening for shooting as this is the time when the sunlight is the most beautiful.

This image would have looked totally differently 1 hour earlier.

3. Have control

When I started photographing other people than my own family I though that if I let them just to be themselves will help them to feel more relaxed in my sessions and the images will be as real and authentic as can be. I basically let them alone and do their thing. This false thinking led the families either to feel too relaxed (and they became just super awkward) or they froze as they didn't know how to be just themselves. I learnt during my sessions that the people who are in front of my camera do need some guidance, gentle help, props what to do. I always make a list of ideas and props about what I want to do on my session.

Try to make the family feel relaxed but don't forget to have the control!

4. Help the family what to wear

Rule of thumb is to wear something comfortable and at the beginning it was basically my only advice. But how does it help if you give your clients a little guidance?

1/ They will be grateful. There is a very little chanche that there is a stylist in your client's family so probably they are lost about what to wear. They have no idea and it's ok. Now YOU come in picture by giving them a few tips and showing them some examples. I send my clients a guide before their sessio which inlcudes a link to a Pinterest board where I saved some outfits, colours, tips for them. I have to say, they love it!

2/ Your have probably your own style, the colours you like, the type of images you prefer to take. Again, your clients see your photos and they love them but they don't realise how iportant it is what the poeple you photograph are wearing on the session. You need to tell them and guide them into the direction of your style so (again) they will receive the same quality of images they saw on your website.

Choosing the right colours of the outfits is something I find important.

5. Don't shoot for too long

I thought that the longer a session is the better as we will have more photos which is a great thing, isn't it? I slowly started to understand that when the parents start to scroll on their phones is probably a sign of having a way too long session. Somehow I felt that if I don't shoot for long enough (some of my family session were 2 hours!) the family won't be happy. But my sessions showed me how wrong I was: families actually prefer a short & sweet sessions from a professional who is able to provide them quality images even in a short period of time. As I became more confident about how to run a session, I am able to deliver beautiful images even after a 30 minute session.

Small children can get exhausted quickly and the last thing you want is to end your session with a meltdown.

Quick recap: Help the family with their choice of outfits. Choose the location and the time you are confident shooting at. Prepare for your session and have a script in your mind so you can have the control over your session and can be quick as possible.

I hope my tips will help you to get the most out of your family sessions. If you have questions just drop me an e-mail to viki@story-of-your-life.co.uk.

Good luck, you will be awesome!



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Published in Woman and Home magazine